Tag Archives: delicious

The Cocoa-Tease

Somethings don’t change and that includes my sweet tooth!

I’ve been a cocoa addict, ever since I can remember. Yes, I have been hooked to this, “Food of the Gods,” for various reasons, but most of all for its elixir like qualities.

Loaded with medicinal properties, Cocoa reduces levels of stress hormones in the body and is used to treat ailments and maladies.

With anti-inflammatory, anti-allergenic, anti-carcinogenic and antioxidant qualities, the health benefits include relief from high blood pressure, cholesterol, obesity, constipation, diabetes, bronchial asthma, cancer, chronic fatigue syndrome and various neuro- degenerative diseases. It is also beneficial for quick wound healing, skin care, and it helps to improve cardiovascular as well as brain health. Whew! some benefits those!

With so many benefits, who would not indulge in the goodness of Cocoa? And with Cocoatease just a hop away from my place, I was delighted to gorge on some goodies.

Their range is simply marvellous. Their English Toffees with Almond, Hazelnut and Pistachio variants are crisp caramels wrapped in silky smooth chocolate and nuts. The Date Truffles are deliciously treated Turkish date morsels coated with chocolate and nuts, they too, are available in Almond and Pistachio variants.

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Then there is the classic Almond Rocks and Rochers which are basically morsels of goodness, packed with either nuts or dry fruits like figs and coated with pure chocolate.

Apart from this the place has a range of cakes and brownies. The cocoa used in these Cocoatease products are of premium quality and they taste luxuriously splendid.

So enjoy some cocoa. And with the festive season round the corner, a guilt-free, heavenly, flavourful and beneficial bite of cocoa is good for everyone. Be generous and share some of the gift packs they have and trust me there is an array to choose from.

 

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Taste of India

I was ecstatic when I first heard that Neel,  one of my favourite restaurants from deGustibus hospitality was opening a new outlet at Powai in the same premises, alongside an Indigo Deli. My joy doubled. But there was more. This was not the same Neel as the one in Mahalaxmi Racecourse. It was going to be an All day dining place offering simple, authentic Indian food from across the country. Much as I enjoy the lip-smacking Awadhi delicacies served at Neel, Tote on the Turf, I was relieved. I could indulge in my guilty pleasures, more than just once in a while now.

Sadly, I missed the buzzing opening party, but stepped in on the Monday after, for a leisurely lunch to experience Neel, Indian Kitchen plus bar, in its new avatar.

Whew! the plush interiors and the wooden staircase that led me up, seemed straight out of a European setting. The first part was obviously Indigo Deli casual and elegant with an air of bonhomie and the second part was Neel the Indian Kitchen and Bar. The natural light filtering in and the understated but chic decor,  the dash of blue to give it an eclectic touch, gave me a good vibe immediately.I felt naturally comfortable.

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I was privileged to get a sneak preview as the restaurant has not yet opened to guests and patrons. It opens doors officially on September 14.

Warm hospitality as ever. Chatting with Anurag Katriar, CEO & Executive Director, deGustibus Hospitality, JD, the Corporate Executive Chef and of course the Man at the helm of Neel’s Kitchen, Chef Mukhtar Qureshi, it promised to be a great afternoon.

Anurag informed me that,  at Neel Indian Kitchen + Bar  they have hand-picked culinary gems from various parts of India and put them together on a single gastronomic platform. An all-day diner with an eclectic bar, Neel, celebrates true Indian food amidst a contemporary setting. “Good Food-Served well”, was after all their hospitality credo.

Dhanewal murgh ka shorba (a light aromatic chicken broth flavoured with coriander) was served. The mild flavours of the spicy shorba, replete with coriander, was comforting and the perfect way to tease my taste buds. I was ready to savour the rest of my meal.

My Tellichery pepper chicken Kerala style, arrived. The aroma of the pepper filled my nostrils, as I was being served. A type of pepper which is aromatic and spicy, but not too pungent and rough, it enveloped the succulent pieces of chicken well and along with curry leaves and southern spices, was a delightful way to begin.

The stuffed mushrooms too were delectable given the cheese and spinach filling, but what made it stand apart was the apricot or jardalu chutney served alongside. It actually revved up the flavour quotient unimaginably.

I could not believe Chef Mukhtar Qureshi’s mastery over Indian cuisine as a whole. I was actually spellbound. Here I was tasting dishes from Southern India, Konkan, Bihar and all over, and each one was a masterpiece.  I had always known him for his lip-smacking Awadhi food, but this man was obviously full of surprises.

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The Sukka squid was swathed in a delicious coconut masala and an interesting texture, took my taste buds by storm. But the piece de resistance in the starters was the Konkani Jhinga, without a doubt. It resembled the Cafreal masala from Goa, as I first looked at it. It was pan seared prawns coated in a similar  green masala but yet, different and distinct, as I discovered upon the first bite. It wowed my palate beyond words and the moistness in the prawns even though they were pan-seared, impressed me.

The Allepey Aloo was flawless, but paled in comparison today to the other dishes.

My  gastronomic journey continued with the Mutton bhuna roast  and a Malabari parotha. The soft, flaky parotha paired well with the fleshy, melt-in-the mouth, robust, mutton which was well-spiced but not overly rich or oily. In fact nothing in the meal was greasy or heavy. That to my mind was the real achievement of the chef. Else going through so much of food would have been a daunting task.

The new Neel also offers an extensive array of chaats, tikkis et al,  if you want a filling evening snack or a light lunch perhaps, but of course I had to save that experience for another day.

The grand finale to round off my memorable meal was the gulkand paan ice cream made in house. The flavours of paan and gulkand were strong and appeased my taste buds. The element of sweetness was just right and the texture was creamy and smooth.

The menu here, is an amalgamation of  food from across India representing all the regions, ranging from the popular street foods of Kolkata & Rajasthan, to pure Kashmiri & Konkani fare. Chef Qureshi has painstakingly revived age-old, often forgotten spice blends like lazzat e taam, Baristha masala and using ethnic ingredients such Khas ka jadh, dagad ka phool, pan ka jadh, kebab chini, mulhatti, chandan.

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No wonder the food at Neel, is not run-of-the-mill fare but carefully crafted, to appeal to all palates.

I had almost traversed all of India in one afternoon, thanks to my epicurean journey at Neel. I left satiated, smiling, but with a promise to return.

 

 

 

 

Rustic & Robust Flavours from A Village

Pind da khana sounds comforting at once. After all it means, food from your village. And here, if the ‘pind’ in question is Punjab, well, automatically it spells familiarity and comfort for me.

Baluchi at The Lalit, Mumbai is currently hosting a Pind da Khana festival till Saturday for both lunch and dinner.

My lunch began on a refreshing note with the Shikanji soda or lemonade with rock salt and soda. The right amount of sweetness and salt. Just the way I love mine. It helped me create an appetite.

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The menu was fairly exhaustive and I was in a dilemma. What shall I eat or skip? Amritsari Chholey kulchey, Patialashahi kadhai Paneer, Kadhi pakoda, Jalandhari barrah boti and Amritsari Machhi. I was impressed with the vegetarian options too. .

The traditional Atte Gond ka halwa, whole wheat flour sweet delicacy with nuts and natural gum- recipe which originates from Phagwara district- a sugar producing belt of Punjab as well as gulabi phirnee, gulab jamun et al, adorned the dessert section of the menu.

Executive Chef Angshuman Chakraborty came to my rescue and promised to send me small portions of some of the special dishes. I was sorted.

The chicken tikka and Macchi Ajwaini tikka arrived. A bite into the succulent chicken tikka and I figured out this was no ordinary fare. The tikkas were well marinated and the flavours of the marinade had enveloped the tikka perfectly. The fresh pieces of  River Sole fish with the right amount of spices that teased my taste buds, was equally a delight. No overdose of ajwain or spices here at all.

tikka platter

Executive Chef Angshuman Chakraborty , Master Chef Rais Alam and his culinary team had surely whipped up an array of authentic, robust and flavourful delicacies, which I was thoroughly relishing.

The dhaniya mirch da kukkad with whole chillies, onion and coriander was a delectable medley for my palate, subtle yet, spicy. It paired well with the laccha paratha, besan ki roti and naan, the chef had sent. The methi matar preparation and the dhaba dal in the main course, got my vote instantly. For a change it was not the usual dal makhni but a tasty mixed dal with interesting spices. And the methi, rustic and appeased my palate.

The Rarah gosht and kukkad pulao looked inviting on the menu, but there was no scope to try more today.

Nothing in the meal was oily or greasy that made one feel uneasy. That’s what set this meal apart.

The aate gond ka halwa was easily one of the best I have ever tasted. The variety of textures- creamy, crunchy, were a delight, as were the flavours and the aroma of fresh ghee. The phirnee too was excellent, but today, paled in comparison.

The ambience and decor of the restaurant was in keeping with the theme and the service was warm, attentive and efficient, yet, unobtrusive, as it should be.

My experience at Baluchi, had actually surpassed my expectations. I was glad I had stepped in to savour such an exceptional meal. I knew for a fact, I was going to be coming to The Lalit Mumbai more often, if this is how Chef Angshuman and his team succeeded in luring food lovers like me.

 

 

Flavours of Maharashtra, Home Style

An opportunity to visit Taj Wellington Mews and Luxury Residences in Colaba, Mumbai and that too, to savour the local cuisine of Maharashtra? This invitation was accepted by me in minutes. After all Taj Wellington Mews is one of Mumbai’s best kept secrets. How many of us ordinary mortals get to enter its haloed precincts? I, for one, had never been inside.

We were welcomed warmly at the entrance by the General Manager himself, Mr. Anmol Ahluwalia. I was touched beyond words.

Over kokum sherbet, we were made to feel comfortable, till the other guests arrived and after an extensive tour of the property, which left me speechless, we sat down to enjoy a traditional meal. Their eye for detailing and ensuring guest comfort, is legendary.

Maharashtrian cuisine boasts of a wide variety of delicacies, ranging from subtly flavoured to tongue-twisting spicy. I was looking forward to my meal. This promised to be an exciting journey.

On a beautifully decorated table replete with orange marigolds, we were served our lunch on a silver thali at Weli Deli, the restaurant. Made me feel like royalty, actually.

Kothimbir vadi a popular snack of this region, made from coriander leaves and chickpea flour or besan was what I tried first. A bite into it and a plethora of flavours, burst in my mouth. It literally melt in my mouth.

There was a lot of food on my thali or platter- puris, chicken kolhapuri, batata sukhi bhaji, masala bhat, amti and shrikhand. It could not get more traditional than this.

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Goda masala, essentially consisting of onion, garlic, ginger, red chilli powder, green chillies and mustard, which is a bit sweetish, is what is typically used in Maharashtrian vegetable preparations or a black or kala masala.

This batatachi sukhi bhaji was the quintessential dry potato preparation from Pune, with the right amount of spices, curry leaves and crushed peanuts. It paired exceedingly well with the deep fried, hot and crisp puris.

The Chicken Kolhapuri was surprisingly a milder version, of what I expected. Not fiery at all. But it was luscious nevertheless and the taambda rassa or red gravy was lip-smacking. One could feel the lavish use of spices, yet,  these were not overpowering.

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The Masale bhat  or spicy rice, was well-made, with delectable, but robust flavours. The use of spices was apt. The sweet and tangy amti, or dal was just the way I enjoy it. Absolutely home made.

Each dish struck me as authentic and home-style. Nothing was oily or greasy or too spicy and the fresh ingredients were enhancing the flavours.

We rounded off our meal with shrikand, sweetened yogurt with cardamom and saffron. The creamy texture coated my palate and I was enjoying, every spoonful of this.

Over animated conversations about food, we had a thoroughly enjoyable and leisurely afternoon, where we were treated to authentic Maharashtrian cuisine spread over the entire state. These were truly flavours from home. At Rs 1500 all inclusive, this was a steal.

The service was impeccable, the hospitality, warm, characteristic of the Taj Group of hotels. I stepped out, with a smile. Satiated of course and my heart filled with the warmth of Indian hospitality. I felt privileged, this afternoon.

What’s more one need not be staying here to experience a meal at Weli Deli. One can just call and book and step in for breakfast, lunch or dinner. Trust me, this place is worth a visit.

 

Fun Times Back in Bandra

People in Bandra are going to be excited this Friday. Café Basilico, one of Bandra’s hotspots, returns in a new avatar at a new location on Hill Road. Reason enough to celebrate. I missed it terribly, for the short while that it was away.

I was lucky to get a sneak preview. The menu clearly looked interesting with a strong focus on local produce, I noticed.

Not surprising, as the produce is going to be sourced directly from Farhan’s Bhiwandi farm. I am all for seasonal produce and fresh ingredients. Makes a world of difference to flavours in food.

Fig and Goat Cheese Salad

The roast organic tomato soup was comforting, more so as I chatted animatedly with a friend. The smoky flavour was distinct and soothed my taste buds. The slight piquancy enhanced the flavours.

The fig and goat cheese salad was hearty and the ingredients, fresh and crunchy. The Mozarella and Chicken croquettes salad too was interesting and had unique contrasting flavours. We were off to a good start.

Mozarella and Chiken Croquettes - Salads

 

The signature Mediterranean Platter was a treat and the baba ghanoush and hummus particularly appealed to me.

One can rarely go wrong with prawns and the peri peri sea food prawns were fresh and succulent, with a dash of spice to them, just enough to tingle our palates.

The assorted vegetarian tempuras too were well made. I did not enjoy the falafel in comparison.

But it was the Harissa Chicken which got my vote. The chicken was grilled to perfection and swathed in the harissa sauce, it simply melt in the mouth, leaving the taste buds crave for more.

The Basa too was well-marinated, and surprisingly I enjoyed it. And that is a huge compliment considering I dislike Basa immensely. Only creative chefs can turn that around and make it tasty and appealing. Chef Das certainly managed to do that.

What struck me as interesting was the fact that Café Basilico boasts of an extensive menu with several vegan options curated by Ayesha. That truly is much needed today. Kudos!

For people like me who love breads, this place is a haven.The Sandwiches and burgers section  is exhaustive. Hummus & Iceberg or the Chermoula Grilled Chicken sandwiches and the Blue Cheese Beef Steak or the Soya, Barley & Mushroom Burgers, there is something for every palate.

Café Basilico’s pizzas are all prepared from their traditionally organic tomato sauce with  vegan options too. That’s not all. There is an array of pastas to choose from too.

 

 

 

 

One can be experimental and enjoy one’s meal with seasonal fresh fruit juices, flavoured coolers or refreshing lemonade, iced teas and coolers like Tropical Guava Cooler or Cucumber Cooler.

Cucumber Cooler

The menu never ceased to surprise me. There were a plethora of coffees, green tea, premium teas and caffeine free herbal infusions  too. And yes desserts too.

The mini tarts- chocolate, mango and lemon that we sampled were delicious as far as the filling went, but the tart was too soft and crumbly.

Overall, the food is of a very good quality, as is the variety and presentation. The decor is elegant and subtle and gives you the feel of a global cafe, yet, providing you privacy, if you want.

Cafe Basilico lived up to my expectations yet again.

Fun times are back in Bandra and how!

Rating : 3.5/5

 

 

 

Purani Dilli Once More

Last night I visited Purani Dilli aka Old Delhi, once more, right here in Mumbai. This time on a culinary journey by Osama Jalali, well-known food critic and curator.

Having lived in Delhi during my Post Graduation days, I am familiar with the by lanes of Old Delhi and aware of the treasure trove it is for foodies, specially hard-core Non vegetarians. Yet, what most of us associate with Purani Dilli food is quite contrary to what Rivaayat-e-Purani Dilli at Maya Trident BKC Mumbai served us.

Curated by Osama Jalali, the food according to him is Purani Dilli home food and not street food. “I grew up eating all of this daily, cooked by my mother,” he explains.

Indeed, the spread was anything, but street food. It was home style food, without a doubt as nothing was rich and heavy, even though the dishes were primarily Mughlai. His mother Nazish Jalali, the lady with a midas touch, who cooks delicious food effortlessly, was behind the elaborate meal, ably assisted by her daughter-in-law, Nazia Khan.

Our Kathal or jackfruit ki galouti arrived first. Interesting texture and flavours. I enjoyed it thoroughly. The Mewa Mawa kebabs were equally a treat. Whoever said there could be no delicious Vegetarian kebabs?

I was floored by the kacche keeme ki tikkiyan, where the meat had been pounded to perfection and the subtle, but distinct spices, teased my taste buds. The seekhs, although well made, paled in comparison. The chicken fry, a classic from Old Delhi was delightful.

The main course, was a vast array of dishes, with a hint of Rampuri, yet a predominance of Purani Dilli flavours. The Jalalis apparently hail from Rampur, located between Delhi and Lucknow and this has naturally influenced Nazish’s cooking, who has learnt first-hand from traditional khaansamas and is born with an inherent flair for cooking too.

The chana dal bharta, with its unique texture and slight tempering with ghee, stood out for me, in the main course as did the arbi or colocasia ka salan. Both struck me as unique. The aloo ka bharta was the quintessential home cooked potato dish, comforting and delicious.

The characteristic chewy textures, subtle flavours and not-so thick curries of Rampur were evident in the meal.

The keema  hari mirch which was a perfect dish to appease and tantatlize taste buds simultaneously, as was the lightly flavoured chicken stew made with whole spices. The Nehari was as good as it can be, but not exceptional. The whole urad with gosht was outstanding as the ingredients were blended well and resulted in great flavours.

What do I say about the Parinde mein Parinde, their signature dish? A roast meat stuffed with other animals was the piece de resistance, both, visually and for the palate. A dish truly befitting a feast table.

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I was surprised at myself, as I was not uneasy at all, having sampled so many dishes, albeit, a spoonful each.

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I was waiting for the desserts with a baited breath. Not merely, because I love sweets, but because I was going to sample Nazish’s speciality – gosht ka halwa. I must confess, I took the first spoonful with trepidation. But oh! what a delight this sweet dish was. The gosht had been cooked perfectly, over slow fire, with the milk and sugar and had blend so well that it was hard to guess, it was lamb after all. The cardamom and saffron further mask the meat odours and the result is sheer brilliance. I almost forgot about the other two desserts- phirni and zarda.

On till end of the month, this festival is open for lunch and dinner at Maya, Trident BKC Mumbai. While there is an unlimited thali for lunch, dinner has a la carte offerings only.

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Getting a chance to treat yourself to the lost flavours of Purani Dilli is something any gourmet ought to do.

 

Eccellente pasto!Italian food at its best!

I can keep waxing eloquent about Italian cuisine, one of my favourite global cuisines. Across India, there are a few places that serve really good Italian fare, but La Terrazza at Hyatt Regency Pune, bowled me over completely.

The decor and ambience beckons you immediately. The place exudes warmth in abundance. We were seated on a corner table with a nice view.

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The set menu for lunch seemed fairly exhaustive. And given the options, it was value for money too. Salad, soup, Pasta/pizza and a veg or non veg main course and of course dessert. An extremely generous menu, I thought this was.

Our Mushroom broth with porcini mushroom and chicken arrived. Aesthetically served. Piping hot, just the way I love it. And the aroma of the mushrooms filled my nostrils. Comforted me, instantly. A few sips and I enjoyed the well-balanced flavourful soup thoroughly.

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My Mesclun salad (with olive, sundried tomato, parmesan shaving and balsamic dressing) was light and palate-tingling. Fresh and robust flavours oozed out of the high quality ingredients. Full marks here too.

Our potato gnocchi with AOP(aglio olio e pepperoncino) sauce and liberal amount of chicken was delightful. The chef recommended the sauce and we loved it. It complimented the creamy potato gnocchi. An artful pairing this was.

Not  a single dish was heavy and made us experience discomfort. Each morsel was being relished by us. The staff was attentive and the service warm and unobtrusive.

The grilled chicken with creamy polenta was the perfect choice. Succulent breast of chicken, grilled to perfection yet moist, was the apt match for the creamy, coarse polenta. The portions struck me as generous.

The meal had proved to be a memorable one but even though I was satiated with the vast flavours and textures I had experienced, I could not say no to the Tiramisu, my all time favourite dessert. And this one was worth trying. Soft, creamy, wit the right hint of rum and mascarpone cheese, it just melt in our mouths. This was truly a grand finale to a lip-smacking meal.

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This three course lunch at Rs 675 plus taxes is a steal. Any lover of Italian food should not miss this opportunity to gorge on choicest Italian delicacies for this price. And throw in a glass of red or white wine and pay only Rs 100 extra. Incredible!

Office goers too can partake this delectable filling lunch in the afternoons, away for a short break from work. I wish I lived in Pune!

Rating : 4.5/5